By Soumendra Base and Fazal Alam
Some things never get old. All people do. But on occasion, some are able to use sheer will power to bring back the magic of their youth; transporting themselves back to a time when their energy, enthusiasm and competitive spirits were limitless. Such was the case for the Commonwealth A cricket team, who took on Gymkhana A in the 2019 Massachusetts State Cricket League (MSCL) Division A finals.
The two teams are no strangers, to each other; they have a long history of close battles in play-off games. However, while the seasoned warriors of the old Gymkhana A have moved on to play in the slightly less competitive lower divisions, and gracefully handing over the big stage to a crop of top-class younger players., the grizzled veterans of Commonwealth A have hung on, challenging their tired minds and bodies to squeeze out yet another championship run.
Admittedly, there are some immensely talented youngsters in the team, but seven of the 11 players in the finals have also played in the 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014 Division finals. The Commonwealth A club has a long history of success, this year being their 18th season making the playoffs, during which they made the finals 10 times.
Lately however, a championship title has been just out of reach, having last won one in 2012. Well, this mix of veterans and youth did it; bringing home the 8th championship title for the Commonwealth Cricket Club. As I said, some things never get old!
Now, for the nitty-gritty of how it happened.…
After edging NECC in the quarter-finals, Commonwealth had already overcome a big challenge to dethrone mighty Conway, champions for the last number of years in semi-finals. Major contributions from Qasim, Bonner, Adil, Wahab, and Abhinav Sharma, gave CCC a thrilling berth in finals after a gap of seven years.
Commonwealth was ready to avenge their defeat from the 2014 finals, the same club but a different looking team BGSC. Commonwealth A was slightly handicapped, missing their ace bowler Mauzzam Raja, the ever-young Qasim, McLean, and Bonner with other commitments and skipper Fazal not 100% fit. Karan, Kiran, and Hemanth came back into the playing XI for the finals after missing the semis.
Skipper Fazal won the toss and put BGSC into bat with immediate success in the first over, Adil Sardar the MVP of the semis who dismantled the Conway middle-order to win the game got rid of Pachak in the first cover. Abhirup Banerjee joined Mokka who was living dangerously off Adil and Abhinav’s new ball spell with lots of half chances, they still got the scoreboard ticking 60 for 1 in 11 overs.
The man with a golden-arm Shreenath got the most important wicket of all, Mokka, brilliantly caught behind by Nipul who had a spectacular day behind the stumps. The incoming spinning trio of Munwar, Wahab and the mysterious Hemanth, controlled the flow of runs and got wickets at regular intervals. Wahab, top wicket taker for CCC got another three wickets with a different celebration each time. Wahab’s previous encounter against BGSC was the X factor, BGSC batters were cautious but he still managed to get three wickets.
Munawar built pressure from one end and got PJ caught behind brilliantly by Nipul. Hemanth’s variations finally paid off getting two main bats, Pratik and Purak was a game changer that opened the flood gates with Moeen and Annis all back in the hut at 118 for 8. After a missed runout chance BGSC skipper Parminder wasn’t going to give up easy, for the 9th wicket with Kawal, both batted with extreme caution and patience and continued ticking the score to 168. Finally, Parminder trying to hit big shots got out caught in the deep by none other than Adil, and the next ball was the end of the inning with Karan getting two wickets in the 40th over.
With Fazal Injured, Commonwealth opened with the experienced Babar and the in-form Karan executing the plan to perfection by not losing any wickets in first 15 overs, taking ones and twos and the odd boundary to 62-0 in the first 15 overs. Babar 42, (69) was the first to fall at 88, next Shreenath/Fazal who did not add much to the scoreboard showing 100-3. Experienced run-machine Munawar 31* (39) joined Karan and hit some exquisite drives and pulls, finally Karan fell for a matching-winning MVP performance of 56 (83). It was only fitting that Adil 22*(14) finished the game with two monstrous 6’s over long-on to hand Commonwealth their 8th overall championship title. The Commonwealth teammates and supporters rushed the field live streaming the victory celebration and champion dances, lead by none other than Wahab.
It was great to see members of Commonwealth B team, Shaheen and ex-players who were there in numbers, to witness the win and support the team.
Special mention of Rajiv Srinath (ex-president) and Kiran for making the moment memorable by capturing some amazing pictures in the midst of the game, while fielding batting and nursing injuries.
There are lots of behind the scenes work and volunteer help that go into winning and running the team. During this long journey there were many who helped the champions out in winning games at the league stages; Shujath, Shaquille Greenwood, Sami Khan, Sunny, Gopi, Basu, Saqib, Qasim, Bonner, Mclean Ajay, and may more.
MSCL Treasurer Barry Jackman, Vice President Nitin, and rookie Joe Buffong handed over the trophies.
It was a great final and another great season for the Commonwealth, Cricket Club, underscoring the point “Some things never get old.” As Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”